Monday, June 30, 2008

WordPlay for Read Write Poem


[Read Write Poem's prompt this week was described as "wordplay." We were encouraged to create a poem from a constrained list of words and several suggestions for obtaining those lists were given. I don't currently have any of my sets of magnetic poetry out, but I do own several sets (most a work, just one set at home). Instead of setting up my own magnetic poetry for this, I went to the magnetic poetry website and created a poem. I've also included some of my older poems created with magnetic poetry kits.]

First my new poem called Eternity through a Window, created with the Poetry Kit at Magnetic Poetry. (Click the image to see it a bit larger over at Magnetic Poetry's website, but don't forget to come back here for my other poems.)

I constructed the following back in 1999:

Near Spring

near spring
but still in the white void of winter
recall the lazy language
of sleepy summer sun
whisper the delirious petals from the garden
smell the dream of hot storms
and sing a vision of sweaty light

And also this one:

Sausage & Eggs

she frantically cooks sausage & eggs
when she aches for
the juice of sweet luscious peaches
to lick languidly from her skin
lazy in the flood of summer sun

And this one too:


lazy mist from the sky
delicate to watch
falls into a thousand frantic beats
rain sprays

please stop
a lake is not essential

Not to mention this one using words from the Genius Kit (full of big words - it even came with a glossary):

Saturday, June 28, 2008



[The Sunday Scribblings prompt of vision send me on a trip down memory lane:]


The summer before I entered fifth grade brought me new experiences. One of the most significant was that I took up playing the oboe. The fifth grade band comprised all the fifth graders in town who were similarly becoming acquainted with new instruments. That summer we met in small groups with one of the band directors (at that time there were two in town) and we gradually learned to play.

In fourth grade all students were exposed to some music education (see my post on the flutophone episode) so even those who couldn't read music earlier were not looking at music for the very first time. Still, some of us were not learning quickly.

There were three of us learning to play oboe. For a town the size of ours, and a band the size ours would be, this was a ridiculously large number, but that's what we had. For lessons I seem to remember we shared one music stand between the three of us. It was not easy to see the music without getting in the next person's way, or knocking her elbow. Nonetheless, I learned slowly as I squinted at the music.

That same summer I was learning to play tennis. The town's parks department offered classes at multiple levels (beginning, intermediate and advanced) and followed up weeks of lessons with some tournament play. We would be divided into teams with some at each level, then scheduled to play against other teams. But to start with, us beginners had to learn to hit the ball.

I had a terrible time trying to connect. I watched the ball; I swung the racket; I seemed to have the appropriate grip; I didn't seem to be uncoordinated. But I was nearly always just a little off – too early, too late, too close, too far away (whiff!). I was beginning to get frustrated, but was determined to get the knack.

Now when I was a kid, we had to have physical exam before entering fifth grade. My dad was my family physician so my exam was done when a quiet day rolled around mid-summer. The kids needing a physical for summer camps were done, and most of the fifth-grade (and second-grade and older school sports) exams had not yet ramped up. To my surprise, and that of my dad and my mom (the nurse), it appeared that I no longer had perfect vision. They checked it twice, then scheduled a visit to the eye doctor.

The eye doctor had an office downtown in one of the two bank buildings. The entrance was from the sidewalk on the side street, next to where the large plate-glass windows of the Tri-City Grocery store ended. We walked up one flight of stairs to a dim hallway where we turned right and walked nearly to the end (at the rear of the building) to where the office was on the right-hand side. Compared to the dim hallway, the office was quite bright and modern.

After another eye exam, this one sitting in a chair with odd things pulled down in front of my face, the doctor agreed that I needed glasses. This was not really surprising once I thought about it. Daddy wore glasses. Mom wore glasses. My older sister couldn't even find her glasses if they weren't on her head (or so we teased). My grandparents wore glasses (well, grandma didn't wear hers as much as she was supposed to).

So my next stop was all the way across the room to pick out frames. Mom nixed wire-rims as too fragile for an active girl and the doctor pulled out a lot of plastic frames. Some were placed on my face and taken away before I had a chance to look at them, but I did get quite a bit of choice in the matter. I ended up with dark-ish frames that were quite small and oval. The doctor would have the lenses made and he'd call us when we could pick up the glasses.

It must have been a couple of weeks before we got the call, and we went back to the office (through the not-quite-so-intimidating hallway). I put on the glasses and he had me hand them back to him. He bent the earpieces and gave them back. He made sure that the lenses were centered over my eyes, where they would do the most good. And I got a glasses case, which seemed a bit odd to me since I was going to have to wear the glasses all the time. I didn't know when they would be in the case.

And some amazing things happened. Well yes, there was some not-so-amazing teasing and calls of "guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses." But since I wasn't sure what a pass was I didn't worry about it. No, the amazing thing was first discovered at band practice. I could sit farther away from the music stand! And I could see the music even better than when I had sat closer.

But the more amazing thing was in tennis practice. All of a sudden I could hit the ball. Not every time, of course, I was still a beginner. But I had a fighting chance. It turns out that my left eye was significantly weaker than the right eye and it had messed up my depth perception. With the glasses, I now could figure out how fast the ball was moving. It was like magic.

I have worn lenses to correct my vision ever since. I switched to contact lenses when I was in high school and college, then back to glasses when I had to start paying for them myself. Then years later a friend encouraged me to take up downhill skiing again and once I was sure I was going to keep at it, I got contact lenses to cut down on the number of surfaces I had to clean fog off of.

My brothers, who didn't have to wear glasses when we were kids, got their turns, I think when they were in their twenties. Of course by then, my sister and I no longer wanted to tease them the way the boys had teased us. (Not much anyway!)

I have had various glasses frames over the years, though none as small as that first pair. One pair was significantly larger, but it was the 1970's. I once lost a pair – I have NO idea how I did it. It was only a year after I started wearing them. We had to order a replacement pair, and the came in just in time for me to wear them to Girl Scout summer camp. Funny thing is, on the way to camp, I put my hand in the pocket of my windbreaker and found the missing pair! Lucky thing, too! because a week later my glasses accidentally flew from my head – and were stepped on by a very large draft horse. Good thing I had a backup!

And now I find that I need to replace my glasses again. I wear contacts most of the time, but in the late evenings and at night, I wear the glasses. Unfortunately I sometimes wear the glasses to bed where I bend them slightly out of shape when I lie on my side while I read a book. These are not the bend-back kind of frames so although the prescription is fine, they are ever-so-slightly askew and don't properly correct my astigmatism anymore.

And what a miracle it seems that such small pieces of plastic can make the world come into focus!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Like Summer


[Here is my quickly-written response to this week's Totally Optional Prompts encouragement to write "like summer."]

Like Summer

Since when is summer
mere welcome warmth
enjoyed briefly between
air-conditioned appointments?
the season with weed-whackers
instead of snow shovels?

Summer is that burst of
excitement finally set free from school
to spend entire days in the sun
peddling bicycles around town,
trying to avoid the stinky, sticky
new oil-and-rock roads
and the black bits that would stick
to your tires and white socks,
when refreshment was a race
to finish a grape popsicle before
it melted down your arm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Poem Reworked


Read Write Poem is certainly stretching my poetry muscles in a good way. The prompt this week was to stop thinking about revising a poem and actually do it. OK, Juliet was much more gentle with the prompt, but this is what it meant to me. So I took a poem written in January 2008 for a Writers Island prompt and reworked it.

First the original:

Over the Horizon

The weather three states west would be ours
tomorrow, or the next day, depending on the wind.
Weather always made good time racing
across the space ironed flat by ancient glaciers.

From the back seat of the wood-paneled station wagon
the space between me and the horizon
was filled with rows of corn and soybeans
and a few trees here and there with something to prove.

The concrete interstate plowed a pale path
through green fields, due east ten miles to a gentle left-hand curve,
then straight as the crow flies to the middle of the next county,
never looking back.

Decades down the road,
I live past the curvature of the earth
from where I started.

Here's the new piece:

From Flatland

Giant steel grasshoppers sit contentedly in fields,
endlessly sipping ancient nectar from underground,
next to comforting night-lights of flaming natural gas,
unable to imagine life anywhere else.

The weather three states west will be ours
tomorrow, or the next day, depending on the wind.
It always makes good time racing
across the land ironed flat by ancient glaciers.

I lift my body's question mark
from the high school drinking fountain,
answering a different, distant call
to plow a fertile field elsewhere.

From inside the '68 Chevy station wagon my eyes
trace row after row after row of corn and soybeans,
filling the space between me and the horizon
save for the occasional tree with something to prove.

Straight as the crow flies, I follow
the pale, unbending concrete of the Interstate
past all those tidy, unchanging furrows
into the hazy, wavy shimmer ahead.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Two for Cafe Writing


[I haven't been keeping up with the prompts at the monthly Cafe Writing, but fortunately Melissa gave us a bit more time with a combined May-June set of prompts. Do stop by to check out the contributions from the other talented folks over there. These two poems came from the prompt to use three of the following words: arouse, morning, nerve, women, men, beauty, admire, nowhere.]


It's true that I've nerve to admire
the strongest of women with fire.
In spite of their flaws
they have earned my applause
and I set my goals just that much higher.

A Josh-Nosh Limerick

My dad was a man among men
who would sleep late each weekday and then
out of nowhere – no warning –
he'd arise Sunday morning,
make us breakfast and ask where we'd been.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins 77


[Check out the other Friday Fill-Ins.]

1. A smile is always appreciated by me - and usually returned.
2. I have too many stockpiled to tell you what is my favorite board or card game.
3. I would love to have more music in my life and less paper.
4. When I think of the Summer Solstice, I think of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
5. I just remembered I need to buy sneakers - I keep "just remembering" this and one of these days I'll get the new ones before the old ones fall apart.
6. One of my favorite song lyrics goes like this: I'm an expert on Shakespeare, that's a hell of a lot, but the world don't need scholars as much as I thought. It is from Jamie Cullum's Twentysomthing.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to vegging out, tomorrow my plans include personal grooming & regular household chores and Sunday, I want to bake something (but I haven't decided what)!

Sunday, June 15, 2008



[Sunday Scribblings prompted us with the word guide. See what other folks came up with here. For me, it brought to mind one particular person on a special trip.]

In 2004 Chelle and I went on a vacation to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Most of the trip was spent in or around the pool, or next to the beach at the all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen. But there were a couple of side trips, one notably to see Chichen Itza.

Departure time was early (at least as far as vacation schedules go), and there were two buses lined up for those of us heading inland for the all-day trip. We were a long way from Chichen Itza, long enough we would be stopping for lunch on the way there. The guide on our bus was Jesus (pronounced in with a "hey" sound in front). Since he wasn't the driver, he could pay attention to us, the paying customers.

Jesus made it his business to tell us about Mexico today, passed around some old coins, talked about the current political and economic situation. He told us about the plant life we saw outside the bus as well as how he had learned about it on excursions into the jungle with a botanist friend, where he came across small groups of people who still spoke Mayan as a language. As a kind of party game he asked for our birthdays and told us what saint-names we would have likely been given had we been born in Mexico. He told us about his family and told us that he was studying German so that he would be able to lead tours for German-speaking tourists, increasing his marketability.

Our bus passed first through the downtown area of Playa del Carmen, where we saw trees being re-planted in the median strip, the former ones having been damaged in Hurricane Ivan. We saw a building going up along the road where workers were lifting concrete into place one bucket at a time; an honest-to-goodness bucket brigade getting the job done two stories above ground. And we passed startlingly-familiar shops like McDonalds and WalMart.

Our road went on highways and byways. In one town we passed through, Jesus pointed out that the church was built on the site of a native temple, and that it was, in fact, built of the very stones of the former place. The conquerors had torn down one holy building in order to put up their own.

Jesus pointed out the kinds of trees we could see over the walled yards in town. Many were faster-growing varieties that recovered quickly from the winds of the hurricane. Once we were out of the town, we passed onto smaller roads and eventually into areas where a few houses were immediately at the side of the road. A small naked toddler walked out of the front of the house to pee in the tiny front yard. Since there was no indoor plumbing, Jesus pointed out, this was probably a good place for him to do it, since it kept him away from the vegetables that were likely planted in the back.

Jesus taught us about the geology of the Yucatan Peninsula, that it was made of limestone and so porous that water doesn't stay on top. There are no above-ground rivers in the Yucatan, all are below ground. After seeing Chichen Itza, we would get to visit a cenote (pronounced say-NO-tay) which is an underground water hole.

Lunch was at a tourist-trap buffet with entertainment provided by bored dancers, but we were at least sure that it was clean. Onward we went into the jungle, the temperature and humidity rising with every mile.

When we finally arrived at the ruins of Chichen Itza, we were each handed two bottles of water and cautioned to stay hydrated since we would be sweating a lot in the heat. Jesus, himself, acted as our guide at the ruins. We saw the ancient observatory from a distance, closed to the public now since so many people had been carrying parts of it away.

We saw steps that were a funny proportion, with tall risers and short treads, tough for my size-11 feet to navigate. Round and square pillars stood upright in an area believed to have been a marketplace. Further along other pillars, all round this time, stood in a long line into the trees, the original cement still holding the stones together. We were told that local contractors all claimed to use the same centuries-old recipe in their own construction. We saw the entrance to an ancient bathhouse/sauna. Jesus pointed out the original wood at the base of a Mayan arch, made from the chicle tree. He told us contractors working on a new porch at his own house were waiting for the right time of the month to cut chicle trees for supports; that when the chicle's sap is drawn up into the tree, it helps to act as a preservative.

We saw stones laid out in an archeologist's attempt at a giant jigsaw puzzle. We passed enormous buildings that had housed warriors, some of their images carved into the rectangular pillars in the front (each image different from each other one).

Jesus told us about the number of steps on the four sides of the largest building, how with the top platform, they total 365. He told us about the magic of the equinoxes, spring and fall, when the sun is in just the right place to cause a jagged shadow to crawl down to complete a "body" for the representation of the serpent-god, Kukulkan.

He explained the ball-court game. He helped us interpret the carved images along the side of the biggest court at Chichen Itza. He pointed out the raised area at the end where royalty would have sat to watch, so as not to favor one side or the other. The top galleries, Jesus told us, would have been covered to keep the citizens cool in the heat of the sometimes days-long games.

After the tour at Chichen Itza, and somewhat revived by the air conditioning in the bus, we went to the cenote. We walked down steps carved into rock, down into the cave, where the air grew cooler as the light dimmed. Jesus pointed out the tree at the opening of the cenote, how it wasn't much to look at, but to hold our judgement. Chelle actually joined a few other folks for a swim. I decided to let her tell me how cold it was (and then decided it was going to be too cold for me). From where I stood looking around, I could see the roots of the tree Jesus pointed out. They reached down and down and down for stories, all the way down to reach the water of the cenote. The roots were pretty impressive.

As we finally headed back to the resort, with the sun going down and most of us wiped out from the heat and excitement of the day, Jesus finally stopped teaching and let us watch some movies or fall asleep.

That night we compared notes with the folks on the other bus. Our bus was full of people who ranked the day and the whole trip quite highly. The other bus was full of people who were much more indifferent. Since we went to the same places, saw the same treasures, the difference had to have been our guide. And we were quite glad we had lucked into a day with Jesus.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Last Day


[Tricia at the Miss Rumphius Effect put forth this week's Monday Poetry Stretch to write about the end of school or summer vacation. This took me back.]

Last Day

There is no learning today, just lessons on
as teachers try to
their classes, as students try to
themselves. As the whole school vibrates with
excitement I wonder how long the water will stay
inside the full-to-bursting balloons.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mary Lou's House


[Totally Optional Prompts invited us to write about hurricanes or storms or lightning. See the end of this post for a couple of my other poems about storms. See here for other TOP stormy poems.]

Mary Lou’s House

We visited the house on the lake when it was just
a slab and mere suggestion of framing. I fished from
the shore and caught a whale – well, it felt like a whale.
The grown-ups pulled in my carp, said it wasn’t good
to eat and set it free. We grilled hot dogs and ate
“holy” pickles that had mysterious rectangular holes
in the center where the cucumber seeds had been.

The next summer we sat on deep shag carpet (that I was happy
not to vacuum) and we watched the rain. Distant thunder failed
to warn us of the crack that shook our bones.
Blinking away after-images, we watched a giant limb crash to
the lake in slow motion. Sudden and sharp, the night was powerful
and dangerous, and we didn’t sit so close to the window after that.

my other stormy poems:
Ocean Storm
The Transplant

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Walk through 2 Forms


[Read Write Poem challenged us to write a formal poem in another form - a mix-and-match. I tried mixing an alphabetic acrostic in sonnet form. I think this still needs work, but I'm at a symposium this week and won't have more time to polish it. But it was quite a puzzle!]

A Walk

A damp, sweet scent came to my nose,
born in the rhododendron's shade,
caught by the breeze and wound in braid
diverse in smells no hand had chose.
Eclipsed then by the tree that blows
fine pollen baked by sun and played
grain, yes by grain, into the glade,
held in the air, aloft - in pose.
I glimpsed the softest yellow hue,
joined wings aflutter in a tree
kept out of reach beneath a bough
left lichen-colored, greenish-blue.
My passing caused the moth to flee.
Next time a softer step, I vow.